This wasn’t exactly the chorus knocking over the scenery and spoiling the show for the whole cast.
Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens actually matter. They’ve been touted as future stars, which is all anyone associated with the Orioles has to hold on to at this point, and which makes the club’s 5-4 walk-off loss to the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium — their league-worst 96th of the season — one of the saddest in a season full of them.
Former first-round draft pick and Opening Day starter Dylan Bundy couldn’t finish off the sixth inning and hold onto the early lead built for him. Mychal Givens, who was touted for years as a future closer and now gets the chance to occupy that role thanks to the team’s July trades, allowed a game-ending two-run home run to Whit Merrifield — then stood and waited for a new ball, momentarily forgetting the stakes of his new job.
It was over. And on a club where the genuine pieces seem outnumbered by placeholders, it was two of the would-be building blocks who were unable on this particular night to do what the entire team is being charged with doing over a September devoid of meaning: finish.
“You always want to finish the inning or finish the game off, in a perfect world, but it doesn’t always happen that way,” Bundy said.
“This is a tough year for us, but it doesn’t matter,” Givens said. “That situation, that job should be done, and I should have closed out the game. I failed the team, as far as not being able to do my job today.”
Manager Buck Showalter said it’s not a matter of relearning how to shut the door for a team that has done so sparingly this year, though it’s more glaring against a Royals team that has lost more than anyone except the Orioles.
“They’ve been able to do it before,” Showalter said. “It’s not a relearn. It’s something they’ve done at different points in their careers — some high school, some college, some minor leagues, some big leagues. It’s not quite as [easy]. These are the best hitters in the game and there’s not much margin for error.”
Bundy had the makings of a bounce-back start that would have shown that the one of the worst Augusts of any starter in baseball was behind him. A sacrifice fly by John Andreoli gave him a 1-0 lead in the second inning, and Tim Beckham’s 10th home run of the season made it 2-0 in the fourth.
Even as Bundy allowed a league-high 35th home run of the season to Brett Phillips in the home half of the fourth, his stuff was better than it has been in a month. He struck out eight while scattering five hits through five innings.
Then he issued his only walk of the game to Ryan O’Hearn to open the sixth, watched him score on a warning-track double by Brian Goodwin, allowed Goodwin to score on a single by Rosell Herrera, then had his ticket out of the inning headed his way.
Phillips hit a chopper to Bundy’s left that could have at least let him retire the lead runner at second, but Bundy couldn’t come up with it, and the error ultimately chased him from the game.
“Leadoff walk,” Bundy said. “Those will hurt you any time, but that sixth inning, it really hurt me there. … I just couldn’t quite get out of that inning.”
But the 3-2 deficit he left with wasn’t too much to overcome. Miguel Castro kept it a one-run game with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Trey Mancini homered for the fourth time in six games to tie it at 3 leading off the eighth, and Beckham doubled for his fourth hit of the night to score Adam Jones from first base with the go-ahead run. Paul Fry protected the advantage.
But Givens walked Phillips on four pitches, was wild despite a successful sacrifice bunt to get Phillips to second, and aimed low and away to Merrifield with an 0-2 fastball that was up and in, then up and out.
“Today, I just failed the team, as far as I didn’t close out the game, and they worked their butts off getting back in the game,” Givens said. “I just have to do a better job.”